News From FarmVets SouthWest

Farm Vets South West Newsletter June 2011

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Salad anyone???

An e.coli outbreak in humans had been blamed on Spanish cucumbers but this appears not to be the case. EU ministers are talking about aid for fruit and veg growers because there has been a huge drop in sales.

Two things spring to mind about this. Firstly, hopefully this episode will focus the minds of the public on food security and buying British produce.  Secondly, where was the EU when British farmers were hit because of other public health non-events e.g.Salmonella in eggs, nvCJD from Beef, Crohne’s disease from milk.  Still, best to try and not to be too cynical I suppose

Red Meat is Bad for you…..

Every now and again a study comes out with “Red meat causes cancer” or “Cranberries are a superfood, eat lots of them”.These studies can be very misleading once the media get hold of them. Some studies look at one aspect of people’s lifestyle and try to link this to a particular disease.  For example, eating lots of fast food causes heart attacks…but when you dig deeper you find that people who ate lots of fast food were generally from poorer backgrounds and also smoked, took little exercise and did not eat a balanced diet.  The smoking etc is an example of “confounding factors” and they must be allowed for.

With regards to “superfoods”, saying that if a food has high levels of a useful chemical in it e.g. antioxidants then the more you eat the better is dangerous.  This logic has no   better scientific basis than saying “Fat is an essential part of my diet so double lard on toast for breakfast this morning, please”.  One American chap took so many zinc tablets to ward off colds that he gave himself copper deficiency.  This sort of pseudo-science happens in the veterinary world too.

Scouring in Young Lambs

In young lambs between 1 to 3 months old there are two main parasites that cause scouring but unfortunately they cannot be treated by the same drug.

Nematodirus is a gut worm that  infects young lambs, usually between 6 to 12 weeks of age.  Lambs become infected when the eggs from last years lambs hatch out after over wintering on the pasture.  The dry spring may lead to later hatching so that we are still within the danger period for this parasite.   Nematodirus can be controlled using 3 doses of wormer 3 weeks apart in young lambs staring in Late April or May. Nematodirus should still be considered a threat this year possibly into July. 

The second common cause is coccidiosis, a different type of paratsite which typically affects 3-8 week old lambs especially late born lambs that are exposed to coccidial eggs or oocysts (pronounced oo-oh-cysts- very odd word) from early born lambs.  Coccidia can be   treated with a drench such as  Vecoxan or with in-feed medication e.g. Decoquinate.

We would strongly advise that you get a diagnosis before treating since serious losses can occur if the wrong treatment is selected. Also, some wormer resistance has been detected in Nematodirus in the UK so if a white drench has failed to stop lambs scouring it may be coccidiosis but it could be that the worms are resistant to the treatment. 

Home Slaughter 

This is a confusing subject due to the many changes in regulations over the years, so I hope this is helpful. However, you must read and follow the official guide. For the full  guidelines go to home kill guide

We have no wish to encourage farmers to start slaughtering at home, it’s much easier in most cases to send the beast to a slaughterhouse and have the meat back as a “Private Slaughter”. But there are occasions when this is not possible, for instance where the animal has a condition preventing travel or where for some reason there is no passport. 

It IS legal to kill at home, with certain conditions of course, which I have summarised below. It is assumed that there is an increased risk to health compared with using professional slaughterers, which is why it has to be strictly non-commercial and restricted to one’s own family.   

 You can kill your own animals at home for consumption by your own immediate family who share the household ONLY. You would be exempt from the Hygiene Regulations, but BSE regulations and Welfare Regs would still apply, which means you would need the appropriate skills and need to use only the permitted stunning and killing techniques.  Also, the tight “by-products” regulations may make it more trouble than it is worth. 

Þ It is not legal for anyone else to do it for you, even a licensed slaughter-man! Crazy but true.

Þ It is not legal to use anybody else’s premises.

Þ You CAN home-kill animals without passports.

Þ You can’t kill any animal born before 1st August 1996  (BSE regs again)

Þ Parts you don’t use have to be disposed of according to Animal By Products regs, Animal Health Office or Trading Standards can advise on who might collect and dispose of it.

Þ You also have to deal with SRM (Specified Risk Material) properly, in line with BSE regs. For cattle, the spine, head, intestines, tonsils and mesentery need removing, staining with the correct stain, and disposing of as “Category 1 Animal By-Product”.

Þ  If you kill an animal over 48 mths old you need to get the head tested for BSE before eating any of the meat by delivering it to a BSE sampling site for fallen cattle or to a VLA lab.

Þ Somewhat more relaxed rules apply to sheep, birds etc.


Cattle Behaviour and Handling Systems

I know you may think you haven’t got time for this but if you want to reduce stress levels in you and your cattle, as well as increase profitability, then please read on. If you are contemplating a new cattle handling system then it is worth having a look at a book on the subject called “Humane Livestock Handling” by Prof Temple Grandin.  She may have a strange name but 50% of  the beef cattle in the US are handled in systems designed by her and if you supply McDonalds and Burger King (and others) in the US you will have her handling systems.  

The book goes through cattle and human behaviour and why both cows and humans react to each other.  Also in the book is a sizeable section and plans for all sorts of handling systems for big and small farms, it even describes how to home make extra durable brackets. This book is at the practice and we will happily loan it out for you to look at or just leaf through it when you come in for a few minutes (it is at Bridgwater at the moment).   We can heartily recommend this book as one of those that you don’t think you need to read but will be very glad you did.  This goes for the our dairy clients too.